Monday, March 24, 2014

5 Broadway Videos from SMASH to LES MISERABLES to Make Monday Awesome

"A Thousand and One Nights"
So, this writer just got back from an awesome time in NYC (aka: Heaven), and do you know how hard it is to condescend to real life after that? Clearly the only solution for such a feeling is to have an emergency Broadway session, featuring some great videos ranging from ridiculously epic performances to hilarious bloopers. This song list is a tested formula for feeling ridiculously awesome all around all day, even on a Monday.

1. "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime
Have a long week ahead of you? This is all the inspiration you should need. Because Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald were in a show together this one time, and it was divinely inspired. (side note: I love this song, but I only just found this particular video yesterday... Where has it been all my life?! The fact that the quality of this recording is so good just makes me want to burst into the Hallelujah Chorus)

2. Carol Burnett has a wardrobe malfunction (in the middle of a show)
Need a laugh? Watch this (and start at 1:45). I can't elaborate any further on the title, so you just have to see for yourself the genius that is Carol Burnett.

3. "One Day More" flashmob in Poland
Who doesn't need more epic inspiration? It's also just one of those, "...well that just happened" videos. It takes place in a mall, and the cast of Les Miserables sings the most famous song from the show, "One Day More." All the chills.

4. Lea Salonga sings "Still Hurting" from The Last Five Years
YES, this is a thing! I'm not totally sure what category this goes in, but let's just call it a Broadway appreciation video in general. This is the only video that I've been able to find of this Tony Award-winner (Miss Saigon)/Disney princess (Mulan and Jasmine) singing this song, and I'm not even sure when she performed this. Like the BSM video that I love, it's just one of those golden rehearsal videos that saints put on YouTube.

5. "A Thousand and One Nights" from Smash
Want to really start your day with a bang? This might or might not be the video I turn to when I need to feel really awesome and good about my day without going so far as intense inspiration. This was definitely the most random song in all of NBC's Smash, but so good, nevertheless. It's another "...that just happened" video; that is, I can guarantee you'll feel bewitched, bothered, and I daresay bewildered, after watching it. Let me put it this way: watching this video definitely parallels taking chances to better your life: at first you'll be asking "why...?" but pretty soon, you just go with it and ask "why not?"

Now, tell me that formula didn't work.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 3 Modern Broadway Actors Every Self-Respecting Theatre Fan Must Know

Photo Credits (L to R):
I've realized that part of my blog is really a ministry. Of course I love posting fun historical tidbits, obscure trivia, and random Disney lists (which, of late, have morphed into a Frozen shrine), but I also try to educate people about the essentials of Broadway in general. Because who cares if you know all about an obscure Broadway musical if you don't know the basics of this ridiculously important field? The first part of my education series was "10 Tips About How to Talk to a Theatre Nerd," which I'm sure has helped many a layman through a conversation with a Broadway enthusiast. Though Broadway is a field with few (if any) celebrities, I want to show you some names and bios that you need to know by yesterday. I have written extensive pieces on each of them (including some YouTube highlights for each), but here is a quick overview!

1. Norbert Leo Butz 
Norbert is a brilliant actor who has played some awesome roles. He most famously originated the role of Fiyero in the 2003 hit Wicked. Then he won his first Tony Award in 2005 for playing Freddy in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opposite John Lithgow. That was the only Tony that Scoundrels received, foreshadowing the coming years in Butz's career when he would go on to consistently be a shining, award-winning star in flops.

He was also in the less than successful Off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years, which actually became hugely popular after the cast recording was released. There are lots of great songs from it, but my favorite song was actually one that was cut, called "I Could be in Love with Someone Like You" (it was later replaced with "Shiksa Goddess"). Watch this performance. He's amazing!

Butz returned to Broadway in 2011 in Catch Me if You Can the musical to play the crotchety old no-nonsense FBI agent Carl Hanratty. He floored audiences with his performance, winning his second Tony, an Astaire Award, and a Drama Desk Award. His awards were the only ones that Catch Me if You Can received.

I was overjoyed this season when I found out that he would be starring in another musical but then disappointed when it closed after 2 months. I'm betting he will be nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for Big Fish, but we'll have to wait and see when the nominations come out.

Out of the 13 awards for which he has been nominated (including an Astaire Award, Drama League Award, as well as multiple Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony Awards), he has won 7.

2. Brian d'Arcy James (BDJ)
Whenever I say Brian d'Arcy James's name, it's usually followed by an, "Awww I love him!" He seems to often play the sweet guy who's relentlessly dedicated to his lady, and I have absolutely fallen in love with those characters. So far, BDJ has been in ten Broadway shows, beginning with his Broadway debut in 1993 in the uber-dramatic Blood Brothers. He made what he calls his "breakout performance" as the lovesick Frederick Barrett in Titanic the 1997 musical. Seriously, my heart just about melts every time I hear that song. He's completely precious and wonderful. Ok fine, just watch it right now!

In 2000, BDJ received a Drama Desk Award nomination for his performance in the Off-Broadway production of Wild Party with Idina Menzel. He then received his first Tony Award nomination for the short-lived musical Sweet Smell of Success opposite John Lithgow in 2002. Actually, he took over the role of Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels after Norbert Leo Butz left, though BDJ only got to be in it for two months before it closed.  He also played Dan in the original Off-Broadway version of Next to Normal but accepted the title role in Shrek before it was clear that N2N was heading to Broadway. So sad. And of course, he also appeared in NBC's Broadway drama Smash which I boycotted after he was kicked off at the beginning of season two. Actually my reasons for jumping off the Smash train also involved hating Katharine McPhee's character, but BDJ leaving was the last straw. He's just wonderful.

3. Brian Stokes Mitchell (BSM)
This man has the voice of an angel. I first heard him on the Ragtime original cast album and fell in love. His very extensive Broadway resume includes starring roles in Ragtime, Kiss Me Kate, and Man of La Mancha, to name a few. He earned Tony nominations for Best Actor in a Musical for each of these, plus a nomination for Best Actor in a Play in King Hedley II. My first reaction when I read that he did not win the Tony for playing Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime was total incredulity, but then I realized that that year (1998) he was up against one Alan Cumming for Cabaret. Ok, Cumming, I'll give you that one.

His most famous performance is probably "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime, but actually my favorite performance of his is a random video I found of him rehearsing "Bui Doi" from Miss Saigon. He was rehearsing for some concert, but I have no idea when or where that was, and I don't really care, because this is perfection.

Fortunately, BSM did win the second Tony for which he was nominated, for Fred Graham/Petrucio in Kiss Me Kate at the 2000 Tony Awards. That year, the competition was stiff as well, but he beat out Mandy Patinkin for Wild Party, Craig Bierko for The Music Man, Christopher Walken for James Joyce's The Dead, and George Hearn for Putting it Together. Out of the 14 award nominations he has received (across Tonys, Theatre World, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk), he has only won four, three of which were for Kiss Me Kate. He's just brilliant.

So the moral of this story is: to be adored by a Broadway blogger, all you need is a 3-name moniker.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
All about Norbert Leo Butz
All about Brian d'Arcy James
All about Brian Stokes Mitchell

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spotlight: Broadway Goddess Audra McDonald

Photo Credit: Michael Wilson on
Well, my day was made when announced the day before my birthday that Broadway's most talented leading lady, Audra McDonald, is set to return to Broadway as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill in April. Happy birthday to me!! This is after her Broadway hiatus of just under two years following her Tony Awards triumph for The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. It's about time! So in light of this exciting news (and the fact that I have yet to write a piece solely about her) here is a special tribute to brilliance that is Audra McDonald.

Ms. McDonald has probably the most extensive performance biography I have ever seen. She graduated with a degree in classical vocal performance from Juilliard (of course she did!) and then began her stage/film/television career, the most significant of which has of course been the Broadway portion. She made her Broadway debut in The Secret Garden musical, at which time, she actually went by "Audra Ann McDonald." Following that, she starred in 10 Broadway shows in the last 20 years, earning award nominations for Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime, Marie Christine, A Raisin in the Sun, and 110 in the Shade, in addition to the aforementioned The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. 

One of my all time favorite Audra McDonald performances was as Sarah in Ragtime opposite another one of my favorites, Brian Stokes Mitchell. The fact that there was a show starring the two of them for one brief shining moment makes me truly believe in everyday miracles. Watch the power couple below!

Ms. McDonald is one of those people who can hardly perform without being nominated for some award. But seriously, out of the nine Broadway shows in which she has been eligible for a Tony Award, she has been nominated for seven. SEVEN, guys! She is currently tied with Broadway legends Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris for the performer with the most Tony Awards, with five. She has won 14 major theatre awards across five categories (four Drama Desks, one Drama League, three Outer Critics Circles, one Theatre World, five Tony Awards®) out of the 19 total awards for which she has been nominated for her Broadway work alone. So it's safe to say that she's crazy talented, and the critics agree. Oh, and she's only 44.

As a Tony-voting friend of mine says, "When Audra McDonald performs, she grabs your heart, and she dares you not to cry, but you can't do it!"

Of course, there was a brief moment at the end of last year when all of America knew who Ms. McDonald was, because she was the saving grace of a performance in which many people were deeply disappointed: The Sound of Music: Live! on NBC. As Mother Abess, she moved all 18 million households to uncontrollable sobs (this writer included) when she brought down the house with "Climb Ev'ry Mountain." It was that moment that everyone looked around and said, "Why can't she play all the roles?" Now let's revisit that, shall we?

Her Broadway credits only scratch the surface of her entire success, but it is the most prominent of her work. And if you think all her Broadway stuff is impressive, check out the rest of her career! Other performance highlights include lots of opera performances, TV appearances in Private Practice and Disney's unfortunate Annie remake of 1999 (oh, forgot that existed? Good. It's best to block such blasphemy out), two Emmy nominations, two Grammys, solo concerts, and a few film appearances. Also, in May 2013, she released her fifth solo album, called "Go Home." Her most recent stage appearance was in the NY Philharmonic's semi-concert production of Sweeney Todd, which will get the "Live from Lincoln Center" treatment on PBS.

Yeah, she's ridiculously amazing.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
Audra McDonald's Porgy and Bess bio
Audra McDonald on
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Let it Go" Becomes Disney's 12th Best Song Winner at the Oscars!

Idina Menzel singing "Let it Go"
I can't remember the last time I was this excited about the Academy Awards. I always have my ridiculously nerdy Oscars viewing party, but honestly I'm too busy keeping up with Broadway's openings season to really worry about movies. But this year, everyone in the Broadway community was especially keen to find out if Broadway composer/lyricst Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon) and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez would win Best Song for Frozen's "Let it Go." The stakes were high, because if Robert won, he would become the 12th member of what the cool kids call the "EGOT Club." That is, he would have won all four major awards in show biz- the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. As we all know, the iconic Disney ballad did win, following a beautiful rendition of the song by Tony Award-winning Broadway star Idina Menzel (voice of Elsa). Not only did this win enable Lopez to EGOT, but it also became the 12th Disney song to win Best Song at the Oscars. So today, take a look back at all the Disney movies that have been nominated for Best Song in the past 70 years.

*When You Wish Upon a Star*
Pinocchio, 1940. WON
Baby Mine
Dumbo, 1941.
Lost to Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II's "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady be Good
Love is a Song
Bambi, 1942.
Lost to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," Holiday Inn
Saludos Amigos
Saludos Amigos, 1943.
Song of the South, 1947. WON
Lavender Blue
So Dear to My Heart, 1949.
Lost to "Baby, It's Cold Outside," from Neptune's Daughter.
Cinderella, 1950.
*Chim Chim Cher-ee*
Mary Poppins, 1964. WON
The Bare Necessities
The Jungle Book, 1967.
The Age of Not Believing
Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971.
Robin Hood, 1973.
Someone's Waiting for You
The Rescuers, 1977.
Candle on the Water
Pete's Dragon, 1977.
*Under the Sea*
The Little Mermaid, 1989. WON
Kiss the Girl 
The Little Mermaid, 1989.
Below might be one of the weirdest videos I've ever seen. It's Geoffrey Holder performing "Kiss the Girl," followed by "Under the Sea," and his movements are very interesting... That's all I can say about it.

*Beauty and the Beast*
Beauty and the Beast, 1991. WON
They decided to combine Angela Lansbury, Peabo Bryson, and Celine Dion for the Oscar performance of "Beauty and the Beast," with some dancers "interpreting" the song in costumes that I suppose slightly resemble Belle and the Beast.

Be Our Guest
Beauty and the Beast, 1991.
Beauty and the Beast, 1991.
Fortunately this time, Disney learned to let the original voices sing at the Oscars. So in this next video, Angela Lansbury introduces the Beauty and the Beast actors "in the flesh" to sing "Belle" followed by "Be Our Guest," performed by Jerry Orbach, the voice of Lumiere.

*A Whole New World*
Aladdin, 1992. WON
Brad Kane and Lea Salonga, the voices of Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively, performed at the Oscars that year in an ever so slightly more Arabic take on "A Whole New World."

Friend Like Me
Aladdin, 1992.
For reasons I'm sure I can't understand, Nell Carter performed rather than Robin Williams. It wasn't terrible...

*Can You Feel the Love Tonight*
The Lion King, 1994. WON
Circle of Life
The Lion King, 1994.
Hakuna Matata
The Lion King, 1994
The staging for The Lion King performances at the 1995 Oscars was not by any means as immaculate as some of the previous Disney Oscar performances, so I think this medley is a bit on the dull side. Interesting tidbit: Hinton Battle, who performs "Circle of Life" in this medley of "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata," was John in the original Broadway cast of Miss Saigon. Following the medley, Elton John of course sat at the piano and sang his most famous song from the movie.

*Colors of the Wind*
Pocahontas, 1995. WON
You've Got a Friend in Me
Toy Story, 1995.
Go the Distance
Hercules, 1997.
Lost to "My Heart Will Go On." Such a shame they were in the same year, as was "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia.
*You'll Be in My Heart* 
Tarzan, 1999. WON
When She Loved Me
Toy Story 2, 1999.
My Funny Friend and Me
The Emperor's New Groove, 2000.
If I Didn't Have You
Monsters, Inc., 2001
Our Town
Cars, 2006.
So Close, That's How You Know, Happy Working Song
Enchanted, 2007.
Kristin Chenoweth performed "That's How You Know" at the 2008 Academy Awards, Amy Adams performed "Happy Working Song," and Jon McLaughlin sang "So Close." Despite the odds of having the majority of the nominated songs be from the same movie, none of the three won.

Down to Earth
Wall-E, 2008.
Almost There, Down in New Orleans
The Princess and the Frog, 2009.
*We Belong Together* 
Toy Story 3, 2010. WON
I See the Light
Tangled, 2010.
*Man or Muppet*
The Muppets, 2011. WON
Despicable Me 2, 2013.
*Let it Go*
Frozen, 2013. WON
And finally, re-watch last night's performance from Idina Menzel, or "Adele Dazeem," as John Travolta mistakenly called her, singing "Let it Go."

Not Idina's best performance, but it gave me chills nevertheless.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
Best Original Song Academy Award